Match Preview: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid – 2021/22
International football over and done with, Real Madrid return to action in Ukraine tonight. Their last Champions League outing may have been nothing short of disastrous, as was the game that followed — a defeat in Barcelona at the hands of Espanyol.
Both the Espanyol and the Sheriff Tiraspol games left Madrid wounded and in severe need for a pause in proceedings, as things could’ve gotten much worse had they kept playing with the squad in the state in which it was at the time. Shakhtar Donetsk did the double over Zinédine Zidane’s team last year, and now it’s time to return the favour in Kiev.
What to Expect:
Roberto De Zerbi’s ideas have started to take shape at Shakhtar. In the Ukrainian Premier league, they are free scoring, elusive, and very usually get the job done with ease with Dynamo Kyiv being the only team in outright competition with them for the title. In European games, they’re used to having much of their team behind the ball, and playing a little deeper.
Although this mustn’t be mistaken for passive football because that’s the last thing that Shakhtar are. The pace and strength they’ve got all the way from deep in midfield to their wide full backs, up until a very productive front line which consists of Pedrinho, Fernando, Maycon, Tetê and Marlos. All Brazilian, all very sharp and quick. You’ll recognise some of these names from last year’s game too.
Real Madrid’s defensive woes haven’t been dealt with as of late. The cracks that opened up in games against Valencia and Villarreal haven’t quite been plugged as of yet. Ancelotti continues to experiment, as he should. But finding the right balance with such a disparity of quality between what he had and what he could’ve had, was never going to be easy. Now, however, with much of the team back at full fitness: one can expect a more standardised team sheet.
Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference yesterday that Eden Hazard was the only player missing from the current group. Injuries to Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Dani Ceballos have always been there, but now Real Madrid can afford to have the best of the best representing them on the field once again.
The Italian was also proud in the fact that he could boast immeasurable depth in midfield, particularly praising the likes of Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga. What followed was essentially a heads up regarding Toni Kroos and Ferland Mendy’s respective situations, meaning both the German and the Frenchman are likely to feature tonight.
Carvajal and Hazard are expected to return for Sunday’s Clásico but no confirmation as such.
Nacho — Militão — Alaba — Mendy
Valverde — Casemiro — Kroos
Rodrygo — Benzema — Vini Jr.
Dodô — Marlon — Matviyenko — Ismaily
Pedrinho — Maycon — Patrick — Solomon
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. The Ballon d’Or charge is well and truly underway. France’s Nations League triumph last week further cemented Benzema’s position for next month’s award, and not just that. El Nueve also performed excellently in both games, scoring a scorcher of a goal against Spain. He’s been scoring outrageous goals left right and centre. Surely a couple more against Shakhtar wouldn’t hurt.
Shakhtar Donetsk: Maycon. The Brazilian number 7 has played in a variety of midfield roles for Shakhtar over the course of the past 12 months. But nothing suits him more than playing in the hole right behind the centre forward. Maycon is left footed, and preferably cuts onto his strong foot from the right. Inswinging crosses, left footed drives square to goal, and visionary passing make him special.
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Real Madrid.
Real Madrid haven’t boasted the most impressive of defensive records as of late. Certainly not by their usually high standards. One would expect Los Blancos to score more than they concede, they just need someone to support Karim Benzema when it comes to scoring those goals. Madrid have to find alternative goalscoring outlets.